Over Easter I spent a couple of days exploring Girraween and Sundown National
Parks (near Stanthorpe and the QLD/NSW border). The Birding-Aus archives had
plenty of information on these areas so I had a pretty good idea of what and
where to find the various species I was after. I had a nice list of target
species, some (supposedly) easy (e.g. Eastern Rosella) and some not so easy
(e.g. Chestnut-rumped Heathwren).
On the way I stopped at the Toowoomba Waterbird Habitat where the only water
birds present were some Wood and Pacific Black Ducks.
Arriving at the Day Use area of Girraween, I had no sooner got out of the car
when I saw my first new bird of the trip, a Red Wattlebird, foraging in the
All reports said the Junction Track was the walk to spend the time on so I
headed off to do the 2.5km walk. The picnic area had the usual suspects
present; Crows, Magpies, Pied Butcherbirds, noisy families and kids chasing
kangaroos. The forest just at the start of the walking tracks was alive with
Brown Thornbills and Superb Fairy-wrens. As I started on the Junction Track
two White-eared Honeyeaters landed close for a photo opportunity and giving me
my second new bird of the trip. Further along the track White-throated
Treecreepers were seen in the trees whilst Superb Wrens hopped all over the
granite rocks and edges of the stream. A flash of yellow in a tree caught my
attention and as I focused my binocs my first ever Yellow-tufted Honeyeater
came into view. I took heaps of photos thinking I may not see another, but it
turned out to be the most common bird in the park. I spent the afternoon
wandering the Junction Track in search of the Heathwrens but had to concede
defeat as the light started to fade. Arriving back at the Day Use area I found
a flock of Crimson Rosellas.
Eastern Rosellas had still escaped me so with a little bit of light left I made
a brief unplanned stop at a rest area just outside Stanthorpe. For a small
park next to the highway it had some good birds including Apostlebirds, Grey
Crowned Babblers, and just as I was about to leave five Eastern Rosellas landed
in the treetops giving me new bird no. 4 for the day. I thought they would be
easy to find but those five were the only ones sighted on the whole trip.
Next morning, I was at Girraween for sunrise. I headed straight to the area of
the Junction track that has the reputation for the Heathwrens and along the way
saw more Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters and Superb Fairy-wrens. A section of the
track had plenty of bird activity so I stopped for a while and saw Grey Shrike
Thrush, Dusky Woodswallows, White-browed Scrubwrens, more Yellow-tufted
Honeyeaters, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, an enormous Red-bellied Black Snake but
no Heathwren. As I was watching the Woodswallows a flash of bright red and
white caught my eye and sitting out in the open was a beautifully coloured
Scarlet Robin (new bird No.5). I spent the next hour and a half walking the
Junction track, stopping whenever I heard wren-like calls. It was getting
late, warm and windy so I decided to make one last walk of the area and had
only gone 10m when three Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens jumped up and showed
themselves (new bird No.6). We eyed each other off for long enough to confirm
the sighting and to take some quick photos before they headed off up the slope
and away from the path. Back at the picnic area I found White-winged Choughs,
Satin Bowerbird and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. I watched as a small flock of
birds flew into the top of a tall tree and as I moved around to get better
light they turned out to be White-naped Honeyeaters (new bird No. 7).
Several reports I had read mentioned that Spotted Quail Thrush could be found
around the information centre or the start of the Junction Track. I searched
for a while but ran out of time as I needed the afternoon at Sundown National
Next stop was Sundown National Park, about an hours drive from Girraween via
the Bruxner Highway in NSW. I arrived at the park about midday and checked in
with the ranger (a good idea given I was on my own in a very quiet and secluded
National Park). The ranger was out but his wife asked me what I was after, so
I rattled off a few of my targets (White-browed Babbler, Turquoise Parrot,
Diamond Firetail, Eastern Shrike-Tit to name a few) and she said to hang around
as most of them turned up around their garden each day (the babblers even had a
nest in her garden!). Whenever someone says to me “X, Y or Z bird turns up in
my garden every day” I'll always be there on the day that none of those birds
will turn up at all, which is exactly what happened. I did however see
White-plumed Honeyeaters at the house and just about everywhere else in the
park too, but I was pretty confident they wouldn’t be hard to find as every
report I read mentioned them (new bird No.8 for the trip). I walked some of
the tracks but didn’t see much else that afternoon. I met Peter, the park
ranger, and he said there were not many Turquoise Parrots around at this time
of the year. He had seen a flock of Diamond Firetails that morning, but this
was in another section of the park well away from the main camping section.
With not much light remaining I left the park, stopping briefly at a few
locations highlighted in my research but again, didn’t see much else. Finally,
just as I was about to leave the park boundary a flock of small parrots took
off noisily from the long grass beside the road and flew up into a dead tree.
I leapt out with the binocs and got a brief but good enough view of two
Turquoise Parrots (new bird No.9). The road out of the park had plenty of
Common Bronzewings wandering around the roadside.
Next day, I was at Sundown National Park for sunrise (how ironic). The morning
had much better birding opportunities with the area alive with calls and birds.
Red-winged Parrots, King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas, Brown Treecreepers,
Restless Flycatchers, several flocks of Turquoise Parrots, White-plumed, Spiny
Cheeked and Striped Honeyeaters, Grey Crowned Babblers, Dusky Woodswallows,
Tree Martins, heaps of Jacky Winters (nearly as common as the White-plumed
Honeyeaters), Noisy Friarbirds, Red-browed finches, Mistletoebirds, Variegated
Fairy-wrens and Eastern Yellow Robins were all easily found in my travels. The
bird of the day however was one of my target species, White-browed Babblers
(new bird No.10), with a family of about five birds found in the trees near the
With the prospect of a six hour drive back home I reluctantly had to leave with
a few of my target species not seen. I dipped on the Diamond Firetails,
Eastern Shrike-tit, Spotted Quail Thrush, Ground Cuckoo Shrike and Little Eagle
(Peter told me one had been soaring over his house the day before I arrived)
and Hooded Robins to name a few.
I would recommend camping in the park itself rather than driving from
Stanthorpe. Both parks had different common species (and different scenery) so
while I didn’t have much time at each park it was good to split the visit to
both parks as I was able to easily pick up the common birds of each area.
Girraween had the nicest scenery (and photo opportunities) but was by far the
busiest park with people everywhere. The camping sites at Sundown were also
fully booked but even then the park was very peaceful.
All up I saw 81 species of birds on the trip with 10 being ‘lifers’.
Happy to supply more info if anyone is interested.
Hervey Bay QLD
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